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Canberra Gaze « Previous | |Next »
October 23, 2008

It's hard to make sense of the Coalition's attack on Ken Henry, The Treasury Secretary, in the Senate estimates yesterday. From the bits of the video that I've seen, the questioning came across as bitter and spiteful in the context of monetary policy necessarily being made on the run to deal with a financial crisis.

What is to be gained from Senator Abetz accusing Henry of lying, when Henry said that the Reserve Bank and Treasury worked as team in developing the advice to the Rudd Government to guarantee bank deposits? Why this approach?

The Coalition has avoided being being sidelined in the financial crisis debate, and it has been successful in establishing a voice on economic issues by highlighting how the Rudd Government overplayed inflation and underplayed the impact of the global recession on Australia. There is an important role for the Coalition to hold the Rudd Government to account by asking probing questions.

Legitimate questions do need to be asked: should the Reserve Bank Governor have been at the weekend crisis meeting when the issue was a monetary policy one?; how should we deal with the consequences of government guaranteed investments creating serious dislocation in the financial system?; should there be a cap or threshold on the guarantee?

The Coalition have been asking good informed question under Turnbull. They look professional in doing so. They were effective. Their questions revealed Wayne Swan to be narrowly political and partisan in his answers (eg., it is economically irresponsible to ask probing questions!), in spite of the Government's rhetoric of bipartisanship.

Accountability is what should have happened when Treasury secretary underwent an eight-hour grilling yesterday at Senate estimates over the bank deposit scheme, the economic stimulus package and his discussions with Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens.

Why call for Henry to be sacked as Turnbull did? Why call him a liar as Abetz did? Why say, as Liberal senator Mitch Fifield did, that "The witness is defying the committee"? What is the point of this political tactic? What were they trying to achieve by that?

You can see the resentment of the Coalition Senators---they are out of power and they do not like it. Their old habits of bullying to impose their will on the mandarins and to break them no longer works now they are in opposition. They looked a rabble wanting blood.

So why did they drop the professional mask that exposed the underlying nastiness by attacking the Treasury mandarin, rather than addressing the issues to understand the options that could be used to respond to the effects of the financial crisis on Australia? Losing it the way they did s not holding the Rudd Government to account through the powers of the Senate's committee system. Maybe they would have learned something beyond their talking points in the conservative echo chamber.

Update
That event in the Senate estimates was an abuse of accountability done to try and score cheap political points. The political strategy was one of breaking Ken Henry so that the Coalition could find the info they needed to attack Rudd and Swan. What the Coalition Senators saw was lies, subterfuge and cover up---the game they had practised for a decade---when Henry was telling the truth. The Coalition Senators came away with nothing.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:41 AM | | Comments (9)
Comments

Comments

Shorn of power some Coalition MP's look what they actually are--schoolyard bullies.

It's pretty safe to assume that most of last night's tv audience didn't understand what the argument in Senate estimates was about and would have been seeing it largely as a social interaction. Not at all a good look for the Liberals as Nan said.

Abetz and Coonan would have come across as powerful and serious if it hadn't been for Henry's body language and tone of voice.

That's what they get for tying themselves too closely to the Australian.

Lyn,
probably people outside Canberra couldn’t care less, even if it matters inside the Canberra beltway.

The Australian pretends that it has the inside goods and that it is doing the Coalition's job for it because it has such great resources----but it was badly misinformed on this issue and just plain wrong in its interpretation of what happened. This shows how determined the newspaper is to attack the Rudd Government. Political events are viewed through that window by The Australian.

Lyn,
I'm suprised that Fran Kelly at Radio National Breakfast takes The Australian's lead stories on trust, and tacitly accepts their framing for political debate, as opposed to questioning the way The Australian frames the debate on its front page.

I thought that she was more astute than that, given her background. Lack of resources at the ABC? Lack of political courage by the ABC to be more of a critical voice?

If APRA is truly on the ball and is making sure our banks are solvent then the guarantee is of no real consequence.

To put it another way: I don't put my money in the bank because I trust the bank, I put it there because I trust APRA. If the government doesn't trust APRA enough to guarantee deposits when the guarantee is clearly needed to settle international markets then clearly my faith in APRA is misplaced.

There is little doubt of at least two things.
One, Eric Abetz is the most obnoxious clown in parliament. Even Conroy cannot match him.
Secondly, the castration of Australian broadsheet media and press continues apace.
We guess now the likely content and substance of discussion as to those meetings between Rudd and Murdoch before the last election, over in the 'states.

"probably people outside Canberra couldn’t care less"

I suspect that's true. People up to their necks in debt worried about losing their houses are not likely to be too concerned about the $100,000 savings deposits of others, even in everyday terminology.

Gary,
Kelly couldn't really do otherwise. The board is there to ensure "balance" remember? Which is apparently achieved by giving News Ltd plenty of air time as per Insiders.

Lyn,
a conservative ABC board does not preclude Radio National Breakfast from talking an independent voice on issues---making up their own mind based on their own research, rather than parroting The Australian.

They could begin to do so by just asking questions --Is this the case? Or they could read the Australian Financial Review--it has to be more careful and so is more reliable.

Paul,
I agree with you about Senator Abetz. A partisan rightwing hack.